Your One True Love might just be a Click Away.

I just got back from my cousin sister’s wedding in India when she had wed the guy she met in University; he was a TA and she was the only one who could speak fluent Hindi and could converse with him in his Mother Tongue. It was apparently love at first sight.

How many of us are familiar with stories of our friends who met in college, fell madly in love and stayed together or friends who met during orientation camps, tutorials and even some who met in Primary school and have ended up married? See, I have been to every single one of these places (where others seem to find romance) and yet here I am, still single and bemoaning this fact to my friends, “ where is my love? Where is this man? Where?”

That is when one of my friends said that he had just gone on a date with a girl he had met online and survived.

I had never considered online dating before. After all, there is still a lot of stigma attached with the concept of online dating. I was very apprehensive about my decision to actually try this out. I had watched enough Criminal Mind and NCIS episodes to imagine all the weirdos that I might meet online, but then again what did I have to lose?

So if you are contemplating online dating, where to sign up and what to expect, here is quick break down of my 6 week online dating experience.

Step 1: Signing up 

There are so many dating sites and apps today, the choices themselves makes this a very difficult phase. Where do you begin? I decided to start with OKCupid, because that was the site my friend used and he seemed a decent sort so I hoped that the guys online would be of similar vein and this site is also FOC.

The profile section is the place you get to define yourself and make a good impression. OKCupid asks really interesting questions that gets you to make honest assessment of your life and what you value with questions such as “What are six things you can’t live without?” and the most difficult “What I’m doing with my life.”
There are also ‘match questions’ to be filled out and these are not your average questions; the answers are locked to an algorithm that determines the matches you see, presents you with a percent match for every person on site based on various categories like your take on dating values and morals. Examples of questions range from “Do you believe in monogamy?”, ” Are you vegetarian or vegan?” to “Would you consider sleeping with someone on the first date?” This allows you to freely define your values and expectations even before you have met the other party ,so if the other person still contacts you then at the very least you know you have something in common.

Once I had overcome the stage fright of signing up on one site, signing up on mobile apps and other sites didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. Since I wanted to experience all kinds of dating habits, I signed up on some of the latest apps that people had been talking about like PaktorBang with Friends (rebranded as Down since October 25), Love Struck and Zoosk.

Step 2: The Hunt Begins 

I decided off the bat that I would let the guys click on my profile and initiate conversations so that I can get a better sense of who they are and what they wanted out of this, sort of like how an in-bound sales process would work in real life situations.

OKCupid:
Within minutes of the inception of my profile, I started to get messages in my inbox. The type of people who contacted me ranged from race (Americans, Europeans, Koreans,Indians) to age (21 to 36)  to profession (students to doctors). OKCupid also sends you updates via email to show which region is most likely to host someone who can match your values and aspirations.

stats

Perhaps I need to move to another country to find “The One”

Using OKCupid is very easy and with its mobile app, you can use it anywhere and be notified immediately if someone messages you. In six weeks, I had received more messages from men than I have in my entire life and this is when the fun begun!
To summarise, in 6 weeks my profile was viewed by 82 people per week on average, I had received 176 ‘likes’ and 170 messages from various individuals. There is no way I could have ‘met’ this many people offline during the same amount of time.

Overall rate for app/site: 8/10 

 Zoosk:
After using this app for a few days, I came to one conclusion. The guys are able to select some sort of generic pick up lines to message their recipients. It is the only explanation for receiving the same one liners from at least a dozen guys.

“When I saw you, I fainted and hit my head. I need your name and number for insurance reasons.”

“I lost my phone number. Can I borrow yours?”

“I’m cold. Can I use you as a blanket?”

Not only were the pick up lines outdated and belonged in the era of tie dyed tees, they were also complete turn offs.The demographic of this site/app tends to be younger, on average the guys who messaged me were between the ages of 20-24, and compared to the men on OKCupid came across as being immature and unsavvy.

I stopped using this app/site after the third day.

Overall rating: 2/10

Bang with friends:
I felt like I was in some sort of catalogue browsing through items, flipping through the profile pictures of my friends from Facebook. You can choose to ‘hang out’ with someone or ‘bang’ them. Once you have made the selection, and if the other person has the same response, you will receive a notification and I guess people can bang away without any of the awkward drunken fumbling.
It was a very impersonal app, but I suppose if the purpose of it was merely to facilitate hook ups with people, it doesn’t need you to talk about your personality and it might be assumed that since you are Facebook friends you might know one another. But using it seemed like a chore; the people were arranged alphabetically and I couldn’t be bothered to go through one by one. I lost interest in this app after 5 minutes to be honest.

Overall rating: 3/10
(But the app has been overhauled since I conducted the study, and it might have improved since then. The interface already looks much better than before.)

Paktor:
I downloaded it, but until today I have yet to use it. I cannot even sign in to the app, so I have never actually had the chance to look at it and find out how this works.

Screenshot_2013-12-02-23-05-30

Overall rating: N/A

Love Struck:
I signed up for this site last but it just seemed a hassle, having to monitor another place where I could talk to people. So I didn’t sign in again to monitor communications through this channel.

Overall rating:N/A

By the third day of my online experience, it became obvious to me that I would only be using OKCupid to talk to others. It was the easiest to use and the type of people I met online were those that I could I actually have conversations with.

Step 3: Navigating the Online Dating Field 

Expectation- 

Reality is a harsh mistress. You might receive dozens of messages in one day but not everyone will be your cup of tea. Trust me, you won’t be able to handle talking to everyone at once either, or you might stumble onto the faux pas that I committed, calling a guy by the wrong name in the middle of our chat although I admit this has happened to me offline as well.

So how do you navigate this virtual labyrinth of testosterone? The following is a quick navigation guide for women, and men take note on what to do so that you get the best results.

Step 3a: The Men of OKCupid  

The Sexpots
They immediately let you know what they are here for, hook ups!

pic 1
Yes Brian, I would totally be up for it now that you have objectified me into some sort of caramel mocha latte that you want to try because all you have had your whole life was vanilla milkshake. The only plus point is that they are honest about it and you get to choose what to do with them; blow them or blow them off.

The Clingers
Probably one of the biggest turn off ever! Men who cling like some sort of mutant creeper plant, sending gazillions messages which tend to be of the same matter. Its almost as if they haven’t heard of the axiom “if it happens once it’s an incident, if it happens twice it’s a coincidence and if it happens thrice it’s a pattern.” If someone doesn’t reply to you after you have sent them 3-4 messages, they are most likely not interested.

clinger

Then there are the unexpected clingers; the ones who seemed interesting and sweet at first, but the moment you don’t reply they scurry to ask reassurance that they haven’t offended you or if you take some time to reply  because you had been busy, they send you messages asking why you haven’t replied yet?

The Minimalist
The men of few words are out in force. They send one word messages to you. Keep in mind that the aim at this stage is to get conversation flowing between parties so that you can build enough rapport to contemplate meeting outside. How does one move forward when someone messages with a simple “hi”? What intentions does this word “hi” encapsulate? Is it a flirtatious Joey Tribbiani ‘how ya doing’ filled “hi” or a simple, I see you human, I greet you as one with a ‘hello’ “hi?”

How likely someone will reply to you based on your first message (Source:oktrends)

I just ignored all these messages.

The Charismatics
They charm you with words and take you by surprise with their opening conversations. I would like to think that I have made a few friends this way.  The most difficult thing in this virtual world is to keep conversations going. Most often, you can run out of things to talk about after one or two messages have been exchanged so its like hitting the jackpot if you can still have stories to share after the initial contact has been made.

The trick that these Charismatics have found is simple enough. They initiate conversations with quirky questions or they try to relate to some of your interests.
todo1

Still in touch with him

Go against your instinct to start a conversation by complimenting the girl on her appearance. Surprisingly, whenever I received a message with lines like “you have pretty eyes” or “you are cute”, I immediately felt like shutting down my com and hiding under my blanket.

nottodo3 Cardinal sins: Bad spelling, Bad start, Bad topic

This situation is not unique to me; studies done by the people at OKCupid has shown that guys who initiated conversations based on topics besides looks were more likely to form connections with whomever they were talking to.

So save the pick up lines for offline activities 

Step 4: Taking it offline 

Eventually it comes to a point when they will ask you for your number or even suggest a meet up. I admit I did hesitate at this step but I decided to finally meet up with Irish Dude (I gave each guy a nickname in my head because I couldn’t remember their real names). It was probably one of those meetings/date where things seem to happen like in a comedy.
First of all, it took us a while to actually find one another and when we did meet up, we hung out with a group of friends. He had brought along a friend, and I had brought mine and when he and his friend left to use the washroom, I turned to my friends and went, “OMG! That guy is totally into him! I give them one month before they hook up!” And we made bets on when they would and after a few minutes we decided to leave those oblivious people and party on ourselves.

We didn’t contact each other again.

Step 5:What’s next?

What this dating experiment/experience has taught me is that online dating can actually be a fun process and that the stigma that is associated with this form of dating has to be eliminated. When I first told my sister that I had signed up online, she looked at me in shock and said, “I didn’t think you had become this desperate” and it was only after I reassured her that it was only in the name of journalistic research that she calmed down.

Why is it that we have allowed technology to invade every aspect of our life, but when it comes to the matter of the heart we are still nervous about using it to help us? Perhaps, we are frightened of things that we cannot see in front of us and there are times when things have not ended well for people who have used online dating. But with the right attitude towards personal safety,the bad experiences can be limited to bad pickup lines.

People should continue using such services because in the end, we are all looking for the last category of The Men of OKCupid  that I hadn’t covered earlier; The Keepers.

The keepers

The Keeper, the most elusive of all the types, about whom sonnets have been written, blood has been shed and wars waged! We keep going back to the sites, to the apps, to the bars, always with the hope that today is the day we will meet the person who will consume our soul and with whom eternity won’t seem long enough.

This seems worth the effort doesn’t it?

I still haven’t found mine.

Originally posted at Vulcan Post  

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